To Dipra Nishant of Shahajpath High School in Dhaka, lessons are different and fun with more creative work, less study and no exams in the pilot programme for the new curriculum.
“Initially, we were apprehensive of the new system. Later we found it very interesting. We friends work together, do projects,” said the sixth grader.
But Fatema Jannat, mother of Mahmud Hasan, a student of Government Laboratory High School in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi, complained about repetition in the lessons. The students are doing the same kind of work like drawing, and building models of houses and boats again and again.
“They are getting addicted to devices to get practical work ideas. They are not paying attention to basic subjects like mathematics, and English.
“They used to study out of concern about the exams. Now it’s not there.”
The teachers are positive about the new curriculum. But they feel pressure in handling so many students with limited teaching staff, resources and training.
Officials in charge of implementing the curriculum admitted it poses some problems and said they are working to address them.
CHANGE IN THE NEW CURRICULUM
In 2025, primary and secondary students will study in a completely new curriculum. The Ministry of Education calls it an initiative to make the lesson cycle enjoyable through experience-based learning.
A bunch of changes have been brought, including the elimination of exams up to the third grade, public exams before the Secondary School Certificate tests and the distinctions in the streams of science, arts and business studies in classes IX and X.
To reduce stress, classwork assessments will continue throughout the academic year before collective assessment at the end of the year. Some subjects will have a full learning-based assessment.
Earlier, in 2012, the government had prepared a curriculum to promote creative education with an emphasis on information technology in view of the National Education Policy of 2010. At that time, people raised questions on various issues, including the creative method, Primary Education Completion or PEC exams for Class V and Junior School Certificate or JSC tests for Class VIII.
The new curriculum aims to wean students off rote learning and exams while focusing on class activities -- a way to deepen the understanding of subjects, according to the education ministry.
WHY PILOT PROGRAMME?
The implementation of the new curriculum set to transform the education system up to the secondary level will start step by step from 2023. In 2022, the government launched a pilot programme in 62 schools across the country for Class VI.
Education Minister Dipu Moni urged the teachers and parents to report any problem they face while following the new curriculum, saying, “Initially there may be some mistakes. It is possible to correct them before completing the pilot programme.”
WHAT STUDENTS, PARENTS SAY
At Government Laboratory High School, 60 out of 250 sixth graders have been included in the pilot programme. So far they did not have to take any exams.
The students said they find learning “very enjoyable” in the new curriculum as they can learn on their own without memorising. Studying has become easier due to group work, said Mostafizur Rahman, one of the students. "There is no exam, hence no scolding from the teachers. Parents are not creating pressure anymore.”
During a visit, a teacher was found directly explaining the traffic management system to the students on the street outside the institution.
At Shahajpath High School in Dhaka’s Lalmatia, students were evaluating themselves by reciting poems in groups.
One of them, Ambalika Banik, said that now they are learning “practically”. "In class five, we only learnt addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Now we are doing them first hand. We are highlighting through posters or projects while learning something new.”
Sabera Haque, the mother of student Radia Nayna, said, “She is finishing the lesson by herself, calling her teachers and friends to solve the lesson. She asks me and her father for help. She is enjoying her studies.”
According to Dipra's father Arthur Baptiste, learning is meeting expectations after overcoming the typical method. "Creative activities are increasing. He doesn't want to miss his classes for a single day."
Shikder Tauhidul Islam, father of Yasin Islam Siam, a student of Government Laboratory High School, finds it positive for the students to have less pressure of studying, an opportunity to learn new topics, and no need for private tuition.
Teachers say students are learning directly through experiences, which they used to learn by reading books earlier, thus the knowledge is becoming permanent. Their interests in learning are growing and dependency on private tuition is decreasing.
However, they called for some more individual study opportunities and writing lessons by reducing group-based work.
Abu Saeed Bhuiyan, the headmaster of Government Laboratory High School, said the National Curriculum and Textbook Board has assured them of considering their demands after talking to the teachers, students and parents.
Abu Saeed said it was becoming difficult for a teacher to give lessons to 70-100 students at a time in the new curriculum. He thinks the number of teachers should be doubled and more funds are needed to implement the curriculum.
“For example, we need to take the students to a fish farm to teach them aquaculture, but we can’t do it because we need funds and measures to ensure the students’ safety. Maybe we can show them videos, but this isn’t possible for the schools in rural areas.”
Surovi Manda, the headmistress of Birishiri Mission Girls’ High School in Netrakona, said they are facing a lack of materials necessary to follow the new curriculum. The seating arrangement needs to be changed for group work, she said.
“And we need more teachers. We don’t have any teacher who can give digital technology lessons.”
“The biggest challenge is the teachers are not prepared,” said Ashrujit Roy, a teacher at Government Laboratory High School in Dhaka.
MEASURES ‘BEING TAKEN’
NCTB, which is in charge of implementing the curriculum, has admitted that there is a teacher shortage. The authorities arranged training for teachers across the country from Dec 17 to Feb 22 to prepare them.
Md Moshiuzzaman, a member of NCTB, said the government is planning to provide funds for necessary educational materials, such as art papers and markers, to ease pressure on the schools and parents.
Mashiuzzaman said that they were asked to keep a maximum of 70 students in the class while undertaking the pilot project. "But when the implementation starts from next year, it will not be possible to do so. We may be able to fix it in another year. We are also thinking of extending the time for each period.”
He alerted the parents to the possibility of the children getting addicted to devices while studying.
Education Minister Dipu Moni said changes will be brought to the curriculum during and after the pilot project whenever any problem arises. “This will be a continuous process,” she said at a recent programme.
SM Hafizur Rahman, a professor at Dhaka University’s Institute of Education and Research, however, thinks it will be difficult to bring the changes. “And training is necessary to help the teachers prepare.”